A couple having coffee together at a table, the man speaking to the other person, gesturing at this shirt which shows the shape of a liver on it. Dating with hepatitis C

Dating with Hepatitis C, Part 1: Pick-up Lines

I am 29 years old, and have had hepatitis C all of my life. The judgment and stigma that comes with hepatitis C can make dating a little tricky. But not that tricky, as it hasn't stopped me from having half a dozen serious relationships, and let's just say a few dates.

Misconceptions when dating with hepatitis C

It's a common misconception that hepatitis C is an STD, and that can lead to judgement making dating even more challenging. It's actually a blood borne pathogen, meaning it can only be spread through blood-to-blood contact.

An STD means that it spreads generally via sexual intercourse.

While hepatitis C rarely spreads via sexual contact, it's not an STD.

Because it is a blood borne pathogen, it does share most of the same risk factors, just not the same likelihoods. It's a little confusing at first.

Relationships hurdles

The misconception is part of the hurdle of the explanation. When it comes to HCV, it's far easier starting a relationship when there isn't the hurdle of the explanation. I've run into both scenarios where they know about my hepatitis C status before dating, or they find out as we start dating.

It's important to avoid lying to dodge the topic, there's no reason to be dishonest about who you are or what's going on. I casually work in the fact that I have advanced liver disease.

Typically topics like bars, diet, or exercise are easy to use to approach the fact that I have nebulous liver complications.

I do this to ease a person into the conversation, it can be jarring without a proper understanding of what goes on first.

Open communication

I talk about my limitations, how the disease affects me, and what I'm doing about it. By talking about the symptoms first we frame the disease is a more human light. One of the biggest social problems of an STD or perceived STD is its ability to "other" people. (I don't mean to say that this is exclusive to STDs, most contagious or perceived contagious diseases face similar a challenge.) I explain that I can't run long distances because my legs cramp up easily, I have trouble with lots of stairs because I can't breathe as efficiently, I balance my electrolytes daily to ensure my legs (and now arms too) don't spasm or swell. It means that I monitor my diet in a way that apps on my phone just aren't equipped to handle. It means I'm tired more often than not, and I easily forget things.

When to share hepatitis C facts

When we've known each other a week or so, I explain that I have hepatitis C. I talk about how it's transferred blood to blood, how it affects my liver, and we go into the risks of exposure.

Read part 2 of Rick’s Dating with hep C series.

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